Father David O’Rourke was privileged to interview a range of individuals from different walks of life. Their experience of Soviet occupation is related in the following first-person interviews. Click on the screen images to view the video of individual interviewees.
Where available, you can also download a text document of the transcript or translation.
Prof. Arvydas Anusauskas is Lithuania’s historian of the Soviet occupation. An Associate Professor of History at Vilnius University, he also has also served as the Director of the Genocide and Resistance Research Department at the National Genocide Museum in Vilnius. Prof. Anušauskas is a member of the Parliament (Seimas) since 2008.
Balys Gajauskas was a Lithuanian activist and patriot, imprisoned by every Soviet leader except Lenin, for his activism. He was early sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for resisting the Soviets, and then in 1978 was sentenced to prison again by the Supreme Court for “anti-Soviet activity and propaganda.” In 1990 Balys Gajauskas was among those who signed the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania. He served a term in the new Parliament from 1990-92. Balys Gajauskas passed away in 2017.
They were a young couple when Juozas was arrested and sent to prison for anti-Soviet resistance, leaving Zofija to survive as best she could with no help. Juozas describes the imprisonment of young by military authorities for their resistance. Zofija, or Zose, gives us a very concrete picture of the lesser-known but equally painful lot of the women and families left behind, alone, powerless and hungry, to deal with the harsh rule of the Soviet occupiers.
Antanas Kazakevičius was a resister who was distinguished by the length of time he spent literally underground, in the underground bunkers the resistance built as bases for anti-Soviet sabotage and armed sorties. For them the ‘underground’ was not a metaphor. As he describes it is where and how they lived. Fearing capture and torture these resisters could not develop any knowledge of or camaraderie with the men they lived with month after month. Antanas Kazakevičius passed away in 2015.
Prof. Vytautas Landsbergis, the head of the Sajūdis movement and Speaker of the newly-elected Lithuanian Parliament, led the vote on March 11, 1990 to defy Moscow and withdraw the Lithuanian Soviet Republic from the Soviet Union. They acted knowing that Gorbachev(he was a Head of State of the Soviet Union at that time) had threatened to bring to the streets Soviet Army with tanks – which he did. Lithuania was the first of the Soviet Republics to defy Moscow. Prof. Landsbergis thus became the first Head of State of the newly free Republic of Lithuania.
Felicija Nijolė Sadūnaitė
Nijole Sadūnaitė is a member of a Catholic Religious Order who was active in the anti-Soviet resistance. In 1975 she was arrested, tortured, tried, convicted and imprisoned for her work on Chronicles of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, an underground record of the Soviet’s anti-religious repression. She also detailed the Soviet use of psychiatric hospitals as places of torture and punishment.
As a high school student Julius took part in anti-Soviet underground activities, serving as a courier and typist for the local leadership. Discovered and arrested by the KGB he was interrogated almost daily for many months, then tried and sentenced to years of exile deep into Eastern Russia. A Franciscan priest since 1996, he works in a Catholic radio station “Mažoji Studija” and he is a Rector of Bernardine Church in Vilnius. Julius is also an author of three books.
Irena Saulutė Valaitytė Špakauskienė
On the night of June 13, 1941, the Soviet security forces launched a well-planned and surprise deportation of thousands of leadership people – teachers, government workers, police, newspaper and radio personnel, medical personnel, and clergy – in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. The largest number – around 13,000 – were Lithuanians. Irena Valaitytė was an eleven-year old school girl when soldiers broke into the farm house where they were staying, arrested her mother, father, older brother and Irena, and trucked them to the railroad yard in New Vilnia where thousands were already being readied for shipment in cattle cars to sorting camps deep in Russia. Irena describes the long trip locked into the crowded cattle car, eventual sale as slaves to a forest labor contractor, and then, a year later, being sent by train and barge to the coast of the Arctic Ocean. She details the life, the winter, the forced labor, and the death of so many – including her mother.
Antanas Terleckas was a public dissident who protested Soviet violations of human rights. As a result he was frequently arrested and jailed for his work. Julius Sasnauskas (listed above), became involved in his own resistance work as a student through the influence of Terleckas. In 2012 a documentary film “Not Occupied” was created based on Antanas Terleckas life story.
Vladas Terleckas, (the younger brother of Antanas, mentioned above) describes his life as a young student in a small country town when the full extent of the Communist party control took charge of all aspects of town life. School activities, textbooks, student dress, required membership in Young Pioneers, and the cruel public punishments of opponents of party control. He contrasts how local people viewed Soviet collaborators versus resistance partisans. In 1990 Vladas Terleckas was among those who signed the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania.
Amir Weiner is an Associate Professor of History at Stanford University (USA), specializing in the history and workings of the Soviet system. These include the foundational roles of and history of total control by the party, the elimination of private property, and the role of state terror to establish public views of reality. He is an author of many books and scientific articles.